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Complete Explanation:
American general Gideon J. Pillow's self-promoting attempts to discredit Mexican War commander Gen. Winfield Scott are ridiculed in this portrayal of Scott puncturing "Polk's Patent" pillow. Pillow's efforts were widely viewed as part of a campaign by the Polk administration to damage Scott's growing prestige at home. An anonymous letter--actually written by Pillow--published in the "New Orleans Delta" on September 10, 1847, and signed "Leonidas," wrongfully credited Pillow for recent American victories at Churubusco and Contreras. The battles were actually won by Scott. When Pillow's intrigue was exposed, he was arrested by Scott and held for a court-martial. Polk, defensive of Pillow, recalled Scott to Washington. During the trial that ensued, "Delta" correspondent James L. Freaner testified in Scott's favor. At Pillow's behest Maj. Archibald W. Burns, a paymaster, claimed authorship of the "Leonidas" letter.

Currier's cartoon was probably published during or shortly after Pillow's trial, which began in March 1848. With the sword of "Truth," Scott (right) punctures a pillow held by Burns (left) and which is being inflated by Pillow (kneeling, center). Scott holds Freaner's testimony in his hand and treads on the Leonidas letter. He exclaims at the air released, "Heavens what a smell!" At left, behind Burns is a strong box on which rests a sack of coins, marked "From Genl. Pillow for fathering the Leonidas Letter."

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